Words mean everything. Our vocabulary is the most compelling form of communication. What/when/how we say the things can encourage, tear down, bring harmony or cause dissension. This is no different in truck world. How local government communicates to the trucking industry can help them do their job in compliance with the law, or can set up them up for failure. The article this week will show an example of a flawed way local government communicated to the trucking industry.
Imagine this. You are a truck driver tooling down an Illinois state highway to deliver a dry van full of goods with a van you can even rent, since renting a commercial van is pretty easy from services online. The GPS shows you need to make a right turn up ahead on a 2-lane local road. Once you arrive at the intersection, you see a sign like this:
The conscientious trucker quickly determines it is probably best to pull over and find out what the heck the sign means. It’s always a wise move to call the police and get the right answer before moving down a restricted road only to receive an expensive ticket.
Illinois is divided into two types of highways…designated and non-designated. Prior to 2010, each of these roads had different maximums for weight, width and length. Starting in 2010, width and weight became uniform statewide, leaving only length to have a separate definition for designated and non-designated highways.
Within the definition of a designated highway, there are three classes: Class I, Class II and Class III. Class I highways are typically the interstates and toll roads. Class II highways are commonly found on 4-lane arterial and collector highways. Class III highways are going by way of the dinosaur.
The sign in question was erected on a local suburban Chicago street. The local road intersects a Class II state highway. The intention of the sign was good, however, the delivery is a failure.
Because local government has the authority to restrict commercial vehicles on their highways, this sign was meant to keep trucks on Class II highways off their local road. Trucks which used to have higher weight, width and length limits on Class II highways compared to their local road.
But that is not what the sign says. If the goal was to keep bigger and heavier trucks off local roads, the signs needs to more effectively communicate the intention of the local government.
Why? Because there is no legal definition of a “Class II Truck”. The class of highway does not define the truck, it only tells what the maximum legal limits on a road is. Any truck under the maximums of a particular class of highway may operate lawfully on such road. Some trucks may be so far under the maximums of a Class II highway it would be legal on the very local road the sign is intending to restrict!
There is a definition of a “Class II” truck, but it has absolutely nothing to do with Class II highways. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) divides all trucks into eight different classes based on the manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). A truck with a GVWR between 6,001 pounds and 10,000 pounds is considered a Class 2 truck.
So, does this sign mean Ford F250’s and Dodge Ram 2500’s cannot access this local road? Of course not. But is it plausible that a truck driver, looking at this sign from the perspective of his industry, could come to that determination? And because his truck does not meet the FHWA definition of a Class 2 truck, might he make a quick decision, turn, and get stopped by the police for violation? You better believe it.
In 2013, the ITEA held a contest for it’s members to submit pictures of signs which restrict trucks on local roads. The results were astonishing!
Over 130 different signs were discovered. You can view four short (1:00 minute) videos documenting many of them on the ITEA YouTube channel. The town singled out in this article is just an example. There are multitudes of local government with poorly communicated signs.
Since the law gives no guidance on how to post restriction signs, it is anyone’s guess as to the best way to accomplish the task in an equitable and effective manner.
Maybe ths sign was only meant to deter. If so, it probably isn’t working. Or maybe the sign was meant as the fair warning pre-citation. If so, it really isn’t very fair.
Either way, local government needs to carefully choose how to sign their local restrictions.